Cautious optimism

The Levant IT market continues to attract the interest of global IT vendors and regional distributors

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Cautious optimism
By  Piers Ford Published  February 19, 2014

The Levant IT market continues to attract the interest of global IT vendors and regional distributors. However, the continued political turbulence has cast doubt on the long term growth of the IT market in that region.

Describing the Levant as one of the world’s most politically turbulent regions is something of an understatement. The fallout from the Arab Spring of 2011 continues to send waves of uncertainty across this diverse area as individual countries struggle with internal conflict (Syria) or make erratic progress to new political models (Egypt and Iraq).

But despite widespread upheaval, there is considerable localised investment in ICT projects and infrastructure as businesses and institutions look for ways to compete at a global level.

The world Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013 placed Jordan and Lebanon - in ICT terms, the two most advanced Levantine countries – in 47th and 94th place, respectively, on its networked readiness index, but noted that international bandwidth capacity remained a stumbling block to ICT growth.

“The Levantine nations have either fallen – or stagnated,  in the best cases – in their efforts to leverage ICTs as part of their economic and social transformation to more knowledge-intensive activities and open societies,” noted the report.

However, ICT vendors are undaunted by the stop-start nature of the market, and distributors and vendors continue to take an optimistic view of the long-term potential for channel development.

“The political instability in the Levant countries has continued to cause challenges throughout the region and shows no sign of diminishing in the near future,” said Mathew Boice, vice president EMEAI at education ICT and services specialist Ellucian.

“However, this does not appear to have dampened the IT market which has seen significant growth in the last three years. Multinational brands have been investing in the region due to a growing demand for services and solutions and expanding
channel opportunities.

“Looking beyond the on-going political challenges of the region, the countries that make up the Levant have the ability to use technology to advance and develop existing enterprise capabilities. For a company like Ellucian, the major education institutions are still seeing steady enrolment and are evolving their offerings.”

According to Boice, this gives suppliers a real opportunity to support growth efforts in the region. They are in the supply-and-demand business – and demand remains high regardless of the wider difficulties.

“Businesses are still running and need to consolidate their IT solutions to decrease cost and increase efficiency,” he said. “As anyone in business knows, interactions are often multinational and not restricted to geographical locations. The Levant remains a vital part of the larger Middle East region, which hosts an array of key IT and players. Companies can leverage their dominance of the IT industry in countries such as the UAE and Qatar and support expansion efforts by introducing their ideas to the Levant market.”

Ask market players where the greatest promise lies, and Jordan gets a unanimous thumbs-up, closely followed by Lebanon (with some reservations) and Iraq.

“Jordan was the first country in the Arab world to have a fully liberalised telecommunications market, and has modernised 75% of its ICT-related laws, improving the business environment for local and international investors,” said Joseph Tsai, senior regional manager at connectivity vendor DrayTek.

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